AXIS Dance Company's Lani Dickinson Discusses Stress Relievers and Bad Dance Habits
Lani Dickinson's power, grace, and raw presence make her a standout with AXIS Dance Company, whose mission is to change the face of dance and disability by featuring a mix of disabled and non-disabled performers. Born in China, Dickinson was adopted by an American couple and started dancing at 8 in Towson, MD. She attended the Boston Ballet School for two summers, studied at the Idyllwild Arts Academy for the last two years of high school, and graduated with a dance degree from Alonzo King LINES Ballet's BFA program with Dominican University of California. In 2015, she joined AXIS and won a Princess Grace Award. Catch her this month during AXIS Dance Company's 30th-anniversary season—and read on for The Dirt!
Where do you feel the happiest?
Among nature: sitting at the park, bike riding along the coast, or hiking trails. My best adventure partner is my boyfriend Jake.
What's your go-to stress reliever?
Knitting is a hobby I picked up at a young age. I usually knit with the TV playing.
What's you're favorite dance movie?
"Mao's Last Dancer" directed by Bruce Beresford.
Who can always make you laugh?
My mom! She has been there to lift my spirit with song, sarcasm, or an extraordinary joke. I am a serious person. My mom is one of the few people that can tickle me without getting her head bitten off.
Do you have any nicknames?
Yes. I like Lanlan.
Have you had any embarrassing moments onstage?
Plenty but I blocked them from my memory. The show must go on!
What's the strangest thing in your dance bag?
Chester's Flamin Hot Fries.
Do you have any pets?
I have had two rats, two parakeets, guinea pics, and three dogs. Oh, yeah, and two brothers (which is an inside joke between my mom and I).
Do you have any bad dance habits?
Looking down at the floor is my worst habit. There's nothing there! Yet I still do it.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I use my left toes/foot to do a lot of things such as tie shoes, knit type on the computer, or hold things.
Who's the performer you'd drop everything to go see?
If you were a superhero your special power would be...
Teleportation. I wonder what the dimension through which I'd travel through looks like. Fuzzy? Dark? Light?
If you could work with any choreographer, past or present, who would it be?
I love being a part of something new. I respect and would love to work with dance pioneers such as George Balanchine, Martha Graham, or Lester Horton.
What are your pet peeves?
When people lack ambiguity.
What's your dream role or piece?
Any opportunity to be on stage is valuable. Therefore, I only hope that my roles on stage increase in endurance and ability.
What would you be if you weren't a dancer?
Some other type of artist. I love the community of artists too much! Maybe I would be a professional trumpet player, painter, or knitter if possible.
Misty Copeland. Her name is synonymous with exquisite artistry and outspoken advocacy. And her visibility has made a huge impact on the ballet world. Ballet's relationship with race has always been strained at best, hostile at worst. But Copeland's persistent message and star quality have finally forced the ballet industry to start talking about racial diversity, inclusivity, and representation. "The rarity of seeing ourselves represented is sad," Copeland says. "The more we see every hue and body shape represented on the stage, the more possibilities young dancers feel they have for themselves."
The Olympics are always full of inspiring Cinderella stories, where athletes no one had heard of mere months ago end up blowing all expectations out of the water, and maybe even nabbing a medal in the bargain. But we've recently caught wind of a different kind of Cinderella story—and it's one we really, really hope shows up in the Closing Ceremonies of the PyeongChang Olympics, airing tonight on NBC starting at 8 pm Eastern/5 pm Pacific time.
Being a dancer comes with the task of having to entertain the same questions over and over again from those outside the dance world. Of course, we love having our friends and family take an interest in our passion—but if someone asks ONE MORE TIME whether or not we've met Travis Wall, we might just go crazy.
Here are 10 questions that dancers hate getting asked.
Contemporary phenom Christina Ricucci has super-flexible hips, which means she can stretch her legs to unbelievable heights. But when she noticed herself making contorted positions in class, Ricucci realized she was approaching her extensions all wrong. "I went back to the basics in class, squaring my hips and using my turnout," Ricucci says. "I learned to create proper positions, rather than whacked-out versions of them."
Some dancers are so wonky they have a hard time supporting their high legs, while others struggle with limited flexibility. But no matter your facility, you can find a balance of stretch and strength to achieve your fullest range of extension. It's not about how high (or not) your legs can go: It's the quality of the movement, and how you get those legs up, that counts.
Last month, we asked why there wasn't a Best Choreography category at the Oscars—and discovered that many of you agreed with us: Choreographers should definitely be acknowledged for their work on the super-dancy movies we can't get enough of.
Now, we're taking matters into our own (jazz) hands.
We've decided to create a Dance Spirit award for the best cinematic choreography of 2017. With your input, we've narrowed the field to four choreographers whose moves lit up some of the best movies of the year. Check out our nominations for best choreography below—and vote for the choreographer you think deserves the honor. We'll announce the winner on Friday, March 2.
Once upon a time (until the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi concluded, to be exact), figure skaters had to compete to music without words. Before this rule change, a skater faced an automatic point deduction if the music even hinted at vocals. Understandably, there were *a lot* of Olympic programs skated to classical music, and you'd tend to hear the same music selections over and over and over.
There are plenty of current Olympic figure skaters who'd make beautiful dancers (first among them Adam Rippon, whose gorgeously choreographed long program won the internet, if not the gold). But today, as we wait for the women's figure skating competition to crown its new champions, we wanted to throw it back to one of the most beautifully balletic skaters of all time: Sasha Cohen.
The high-flying leaps of grand allegro are meant to be incredibly exciting. But at the end of an intense ballet class, when you're exhausted, it can be hard to give them the attention they deserve. Want to pump up your big jumps? Follow these 10 vital tips from Jennifer Hart, curriculum director and instructor at Ballet Austin.